Despite a startling rise in the number of coronavirus infections in Nepal, the government has decided not to bear expenses of the people infected with COVID-19. However, the government will continue to bear the test and treatment expenses of the poor, helpless, persons with disabilities, single women, elderly citizens, frontline health workers, security personnel, sanitisation workers as well as those civil servants who are working in the risk-prone areas. If these persons have got their health insured by any company, their expenses will be deducted from the insurance. The government has also revised the guideline related to dead body management of COVID-19 cases and come up with a decision not to manage bodies of those who died while staying in home isolation. Now onwards, family members will have to arrange a vehicle to carry the dead body. While managing the body, the persons going close with it are required to wear gloves, surgical masks, boots, spectacles and full sleeve dresses. These decisions have come into effect since Sunday. A huge financial burden on the state might have forced the government to take such harsh decisions. But there are fears that the government's fresh steps could put many people in difficulty and worsen the pandemic across the country. As the coronavirus lockdowns and other restrictions have already caused a colossal damage to the national economy resulting in massive job and income losses, most of the citizens now cannot afford to bear expenses for their COVID-19 test and treatment. With the enforcement of these decisions, many people are likely to be deprived of necessary tests for the deadly virus. Though the government has fixed rates of virus infection tests and treatments for private hospitals, the latter are often found flouting the instructions. Earlier, public hospitals and laboratories had been conducting COVID-19 tests for free of cost to receive reimbursement from the government.
Needless to say, the Kathmandu Valley has now become a new coronavirus hotspot in the country, with about 50 per cent of total number of active cases concentrated here. Many infected persons in the valley are now staying in home isolation due to lack of hospital beds and isolation centres. Several persons have already died while in home isolation. Following a shortage of hospital beds for the coronavirus patients, the government recently designated all the hospitals as COVID-19 hospitals. But the problem is that the hospitals do not have adequate number of Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds and ventilators. Another risk is that the mobility of people has increased considerably for the Dashain festival. This may lead to the spread the lethal disease throughout the country.
Although the government is running out of funds, it must carry out its responsibility of providing basic health services to citizens. It should manage funds to deal with the pandemic. The country's socialism-oriented constitution has guaranteed health as a fundamental right of citizens. In line with the constitutional provision, the Supreme Court (SC) has already ordered the government to ensure free test and treatment for the coronavirus. Socialism is also the goal of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP). So, the government must demonstrate its strong resolution in the fight against the contagion.